Angels Marry Women?
Nephilim, sons of God, and Genesis 6:1-5
By Robert E. Gentet
Scripture records the creation of Adam and Eve and their fall into sin (Gen. 2-3). Subsequently, the pre-Flood world saw complete degeneration of morals and constant rebellion against the Creator. In the words of Genesis 6:1-5:
"When men began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, 'My Spirit will not abide in man forever, for he is flesh; his days shall be 120 years.'
"The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of man and they bore children to them. They were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
Who were the mysterious "Nephilim" on the earth and what was their relationship to the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men"? There are two basic and contrasting lines of thought on that question.
The "Sons of God" Seen as Fallen Angels
First, one view commonly held today that teaches:
To some, these reasons are an "open and shut case." Those who believe otherwise commit, in the words of one writer, "a rape of the biblical text."
Many more tentacles of this belief reach out and affect numerous other fields of understanding. However, this article will limit the issue to the items discussed above.
The Alternate View
Now let's examine the second view. The numbering will coincide with the points given in view one.
#1: How does the Bible interpret the phrase "sons of God"?
The first and most basic rule of biblical interpretation is letting the Bible explain itself by looking at all the scriptures on the subject. Picking and choosing and overlooking the biblical thread of the verses can lead to some very flawed conclusions.
The phrase "sons of God" is, indeed, used to describe the angels of God (Job 2:1, etc.). Even in these supposed "proof" texts of Job 1 and elsewhere where angels are called "sons of God," it is important to notice that only the righteous angels are the "sons of God."
For example, in Job 1, the devil is not included among their count. Rather he shows up suddenly without an invitation. Thus, the Lord's question to Satan of where he came from. (Interestingly, Satan's response was like that of a teenager who has been out all night and when his parents ask where he has been gives an evasive answer: "Just hangin' out.")
Righteous angels are the "sons of God" by creation – God is their Father in that limited sense. Scripture says that those who follow Satan have him as their father (John 8:44). It does not necessarily follow that the phrase "sons of God" always refers just to the righteous angels. Instead, the phrase and overall concept is overwhelmingly applied in Scripture – not to angels – but to believers!
First, let's look at some Old Testament examples where God's people are reckoned as His children, His sons and daughters. In the world after the Deluge, God called forth His people and saved them from Egyptian slavery. He gave them strict laws to obey. Notice how God addressed them:
"You are the sons of the LORD your God. [For this reason] you shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your forehead for the dead. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the people who are on the face of the earth." (Deuteronomy 14:1-2)
Even after the Lord dispersed Israel because of their sins, He promised to gather them from the four winds of the earth. And, God once again calls them His sons and daughters:
"Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made" (Isaiah 43:5-7).
Such phrases are also used by the prophet Hosea in two places. In one a general term is used and in the second the specific word "son" is used:
"And in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people, it shall be said to them, 'Children of the living God'" (Hosea 1:10).
"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son" (Hosea 11:1).
This latter verse is dual in meaning, referring to both Israel as God's "firstborn son" (Exodus 4:22-23) and the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Father's only begotten Son. In all cases, we see a consistent usage referring to believers which agrees with a human – not angelic -- interpretation of Genesis 6:2.
And in the New Testament there are many examples of believers reckoned as God's children, His sons. For example:
"You [both the Jews and Gentile believers] are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek….If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:26, 29).
The story thread of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is God's redemption offered to man through the works of the Messiah. A community of believers (sons of God) developed during the pre-Flood times of those who looked forward to the coming of the promised seed, the Messiah.
"To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord" (Genesis 4:26).
Calling upon the name of the Lord is another way of saying they became believers in the true God. They prayed to and worshipped their Creator. It's the story of the pre-Flood Church.
The promise of an "offspring" (Genesis 3:15) who would crush the serpent's head was given to Eve soon after she sinned. That initial Gospel message of deliverance from sin was passed onto succeeding generations. Christ is the promised offspring whose perfect life, death, and resurrection delivers us from sin and the power of the devil (Hebrews 2:14-18).
But, something obviously went wrong in that pre-Flood world to kill out that belief. Scripture here in Genesis 6 is trying to tell us what happened.
In the context of Genesis 6, the emphasis is on rejection of God's Spirit by humans. God kept reaching out to them, but they hardened their hearts and quenched the work of the Spirit within and among them. This continues to happen today and has been accelerating for some time as we near the end of this age and the time of Christ's return. Truly we live in times like those before the Flood when unbelief was rampant and the thoughts of humanity were only evil continually. We live in an age that glorifies violence, self and strength, the trademark of the pre-Flood world as well.
#2: Can All Angels Assume Human Form and Marry?
It's true that righteous angels can, at times, assume a human, male shape and appear on earth. The interesting and overlooked point is that this is only recorded in all the Scriptures of the righteous angels. There is not one example in the Bible of an evil or fallen angel taking on the shape of a male human. Rather, the Bible often portrays evil angels as unclean animals!
For example, Revelation 16:13:
"And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs…."
Of course, righteous angels, when God desires, can appear as male humans. However, it would be absurd to say they would (even if they could) have sexual relations with women. The Bible makes it clear that the righteous angels based in Heaven do not marry. Jesus explicitly said:
"You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they [resurrected humans] neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven" (Matthew 22:30).
Here is a clear statement from Christ that angels do not marry, directly contradicting the belief of some that angels marry. While Christ is not directly referring to Genesis 6 here, nevertheless, His response is clear: angels don't marry. It takes no leap of the imagination to see what Christ would have said if He had been directly asked if the "sons of God" referred to angels marrying women before the Flood!
They don't need to. They are not mortal. Reproduction is only necessary in the human and animal spheres because of death and the need to continually repopulate the earth. So the ability of righteous angels to sometimes appear as male humans is really no proof for interpreting the "sons of God" in Genesis 6 as evil angels.
#3: II Peter 2:4 and Jude 6
Next, II Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 do not mention sexual relations between evil angels and women. Notice first II Peter 2:4:
"For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment…."
Here the only clue we are given is that some of the angels "sinned" and for that reason God "cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment…."
To conclude that this is speaking of an event other than the original angelic rebellion against God is unwarranted. The assumption is that being cast into hell and committed to chains of darkness is only for certain of the evil angels. This misconception is similar to that held by some Christians today that the binding of Satan at the start of the 1,000 years in Revelation 20 restricts his work on Earth in tempting mankind. (For a fuller explanation of the 1,000 years, see the following additional article.)
Rather, this casting and committing of the wicked angels until the Day of Judgment speaks of their original offense against God. They were thrust out of Heaven as their dwelling place (Rev. 12:4). They only re-visit Heaven upon occasion, as shown in Job 1 and other scriptures. Jesus said He had seen Satan fall out of Heaven "like lightning" (Luke 10:18). Since their initial sin, Satan and his host are awaiting their ultimate doom. This does not completely restrict their evil deeds on the Earth where God sets strict bounds on their activity (see I Kings 22:19-23 for a vivid example).
The nature of that original sin of some of the angels is mentioned in Jude 6. Let's look at Jude 6 in context, beginning verse 5:
"Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones."
Again, we must read the Bible for the specific things it says about a matter. The ancient Israelites whom God had saved out of slavery in Egypt were later destroyed in the desert – they did not enter the Promised Land because of unbelief.
"For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:16-19).
The Israelites ultimately failed to trust the One who had delivered them from Pharaoh and harsh slavery. They fell into complaining, gross sin, and rejection of their God-given leader, Moses.
The sin of the angels is characterized as not staying "within their own position of authority" and leaving "their proper dwelling." What was the charge given to the angels at the creation of man? What is their responsibility towards us?
"For He [God] will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone" (Psalm 91:11-12).
And, further in Hebrews 1:13-14:
"And to which of the angels has He [God] ever said, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet'? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?"
Scripture informs us the evil angels have exactly the opposite desire! Their whole desire is to disrupt the salvation message and belief in any way that God allows and to inflict harm upon mankind!
And thus the fallen angels have by their actions rebelled against helping mankind toward salvation. Instead, they use every device God allows to entice man into their own image of rebellion and hatred of the Creator. To say that this includes evil angels having sexual relations with women is not explicitly stated here or elsewhere unless one forces it into the Genesis 6 verses without other scriptural support.
Heaven was meant to be the home of all the angels as they served their Creator's overall purpose of redeeming fallen mankind. The devil and his host have been thrust out. They know that they will soon face their eternal fate in the lake of fire (hell) which God has prepared for them (Matthew 25:41).
Thus, the clear implication from the rest of Scripture is that the evil angels rebelled at the thought of serving mankind. And that this happened very early after man's creation is shown by the fact that the devil appears in the Garden of Eden before the first sin of mankind. Here, already, Satan and his host are working against God's original purpose for their creation. They were already against the order ( "position of authority") given to them by their Creator in Heaven. Rather, they had become man's foe. They sought to hinder man's salvation in any way they were allowed. Man's fallen nature with enmity towards God makes that an easier task.
#4: Who Were the Nephilim?
The idea of a part angel and part human creature is a strange concept. It violates one of the most basic rules that these same creationists firmly uphold. Genesis One makes it clear 10 times that created things only can reproduce after their own min (Hebrew) translated as "kind." Humans and angels are two entirely different kinds. Angels are created spirit beings of great power. Adam came directly from the dust of the Earth and Eve from Adam's rib. And, as previously shown, evil angels only appear as unclean animals or birds, but never as men.
Thus, the result of the marriages between the" sons of God" and the daughters of men, the Nephilim, were 100% human beings. They were unique in that God said they were the "heroes of old, men of renown." That is, they were looked up to as shining examples for others in a negative way. They brought the culture of the pre-Flood world down to its lowest level. This degenerative power is still true today of those anti-God people who hold sway over millions – nay, even billions – of people.
Some see evidence from Numbers 13:32-33 that the Nephilim were of giant size. Here we read that the Israelite spies checking out the Promised Land said they saw the Nephilim who made them appear in their "own eyes as grasshoppers and so we were in their eyes." However, no encounter was noted with the Nephilim once the land was entered. Those of giant size who were later seen are called Rephaim (Deuteronomy 1:28; 2:11, 20; and 9:2). It appears the spies were incorrect in their description. Their report was rejected by Moses and later they died in a plague (Numbers 14:1-38).
The name Nephilim comes from a Hebrew verb root naphal meaning "the fallen ones." This further makes sense if we are dealing with intermarriage between believers and unbelievers. The offspring were the result of believers ("sons of God") who fell from the faith by marrying unbelieving, sensual woman. The children were reared in a hostile, anti-God atmosphere. They epitomize the pre-Flood rebellion against the Creator. As has been true for some time in the modern world, some of the worse enemies of Christianity were reared in Christian homes or environments. They have forsaken the faith of their fathers. Like the ancient heroes of the world before the Deluge, they have often become powerful instruments in anti-God establishments and views.
The first sin brought a curse upon the Earth (Genesis 3:17). As sins in the pre-Flood world increased, so did the effects of the curse. God uses "natural" means to try to bring about repentance in mankind (Revelation 16:10). But, then, as now, men just shrugged their shoulders and went on sinning.
This is more fully explained in the CCC geologic model. The great Reformer Martin Luther 500 years ago also saw God's hand in the progressive punishments of the pre-Flood world. Luther wrote:
"Here mention is made only of thorns, thistles, and hard work. But now we learn from experience that countless others have been added…Much harm is done to the vegetables by harmful insects! Furthermore, frosts, lightning bolts, injurious dews, storms, overflowing rivers, settling of the ground, earthquakes – all do damage….Therefore I am fully of the opinion that because of the increase of sins the punishments were also increased and that these troubles were added to the curse of the earth" (see his commentary on Genesis 3 in Luther's Works).
For the same reasons God brought about a world-wide Flood in Noah's time, God will once again intervene dramatically in Earth's history. This time it will be by universal fire, destroying the present Earth and creating a New Heavens and a New Earth "wherein dwells righteousness" (II Peter 3:13).
Christ said the world would become in the days before His Return "like in the days of Noah" (Matthew 24:37). Those days were characterized by the children of God marrying outside their faith with unbelievers. The result was violent, anti-God rebellion, by the heroes of society. Over time, the whole Earth became corrupt. How similar to the world today! Even though there may be a form of godliness, in reality many deny the power of God by their actions.
#5: The Question of Early Church Belief
Various early Jewish leaders and some New Testament Church Fathers believed the "sons of God" in Genesis 6 referred to angels. For example, the early Jewish historian Josephus wrote:
"Some, born of angels who had consorted with women, resembled the audacious giants of Greek mythology" (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 3, section 1).
However, this in itself does not give it absolute credence. Rather, we must look at why, for example, the translators of the Hebrew text into the Greek language translated what is plainly in the Hebrew as "sons of God" into "angels of God" (Gen. 6:2, LXX version). The LXX or Septuagint version of what we commonly call the Old Testament was translated in Alexandria, Egypt, during the third century B.C. This version was widely used during the time of the apostles and was often quoted in the New Testament.
About the same time as the LXX was being translated, the pseudepigraphical book of Enoch was also written, at least its earlier portion. It is in this earlier section of the Book of Enoch that it is written:
"It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamored of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children" (7:1-2).
This is very similar to what is believed today among some Christians. And, together with the LXX translation, the fact that certain early Church fathers also believed it is seen as great evidence of its validity.
But, as is true of all translations, it is only as good as the translators. Greek and other Near Eastern mythology has parallels with the mixing of the gods and humans. And, as we have seen, its use by the Book of Enoch has never been recognized as inspired Scripture. Quotes from it in the New Testament (Jude 9; 14-15) don't make it canonical anymore than St. Paul's quotes from the Greek poets Aratus, Menander, and Epimenides give their works Scriptural authority.
So the fact that some of the early Church Fathers believed the "sons of God" in Genesis 6 to be fallen angels shows only how far this misconception had travelled. Later Church Fathers soundly rejected the idea.
A book on Eastern Orthodox traditions (GENESIS, CREATION and EARLY MAN -- The Orthodox Christian Vision) rejects the idea that angels married women before the Flood by saying:
"Some have speculated that the 'sons of God' were heavenly beings or angels. The Holy Fathers were aware of this interpretation and they refuted it, saying that angels cannot beget men." [Here a footnote adds the following: "The identification of the 'sons of God' as angels or heavenly beings was based in part on the apocryphal book of Enoch....Some of the early Christian writers mistakenly accepted this interpretation....The first extant Christian reference to the 'sons of God' as descendants of Seth is in the Five Books of Chronology by the early Christian writer Julius Africanus (A.D. 200-245) (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 6, p. 131). This interpretation became the consistent teaching of the Church, being set forth on theological grounds by St. John Chrysostom (Commentary on Genesis 22:6-7), St. Ephraim the Syrian (Commentary on Genesis 6:3, Hymns on the Nativity 1:48, Hymns on Faith 46:9, Hymns against Heresies 19:1-8, and Hymns on Paradise 1:11), St. John Cassian (Conferences 8:20-21), Blessed Augustine (City of God 15:23), St. Gregory Palamas ('Topics of Natural and Theological Science' 62), St. Athanasius (Four Discourses against the Arians 4:22), St. Cyril of Alexandria, and others."] (page 244).
The New Testament warns against believing fables (see Titus 1:14, I Timothy 1:4; 4:7 and II Timothy 4:4). Unfortunately, at times, the early Church Fathers -- as is still true today among various Church leaders -- did err. The guiding principle must always remain sola scriptura.
#6: "Perfect/Blameless in His Generations"
And, lastly, what about Genesis 6:9 and the statement that Noah was found to be "blameless in his generation" (ESV), "blameless among his fellow man" (Modern Language)? If this is not concerning his genetic make-up, what could it mean?
Notice how the Bible uses the term "blameless".
"There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil" (Job 1:1).
"In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah…and he had a wife…and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Luke 1:5-6).
Noah was unique in that just before the Flood commenced, only he was found among all the earth to be blameless. What set him apart was his faith (a living one, validated by his works).
"By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith" (Hebrews 11:7).
It had nothing to do with his genetics, but rather a faith-based relationship with his Creator that translated into good works and a godly fear. Nowhere in the entire Bible is there any mention of human/angel marriages. Time and time again the warning has to do with believers not diluting their faith by inter-marriage with unbelievers.
The early verses of Genesis 6, when viewed with the rest of the Bible, speak of the faith degeneration of the believing community in the pre-Flood world. Men of God lusted after worldly, unconverted women and fell from the faith – a problem still very much with us today.
Throughout the Bible, God warns his people not to allow unbelievers to lead them into carnal pursuits and ungodly living. This was also the major problem of ancient Israel. They continually mixed with the pagan religions of the nations around them until God had to expel them from the Land of Promise. That's why the New Testament continues to teach:
"But if her husband dies, she [the believer] is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord [that is, a fellow believer]" (I Corinthians 7:39 and see also II Corinthians 6:14-18).
Before the Flood, godly men chose to marry whosoever they willed, even unbelievers. This apostasy from the faith was catastrophic in the morals of the day and eventually led to a society so corrupt that every thought of their hearts was only evil continually. Thus, the world became a place filled with violence and hatred and exactly opposite the will of the Creator. God's only solution was total destruction of all humanity except Noah and his immediate family.
To try to paint another picture into these verses in Genesis 6 overlooks basic story flow and biblical concepts. It plays into the devices of those evil angels who seek to derail man from the thoughts of God. Demons love to have people think about themselves rather than God and His thoughts. The understanding that the "sons of God" in Genesis 6 are pre-Flood believers who fell away from the faith due to their lust for ungodly women is a theme that still has great meaning for Christians today. All godly men need to remember it so as to not make this same drastic mistake just before our Lord returns.
Various editions of the works of Flavius Josephus are available. William Whiston’s translation is an old time favorite, but a newer one that I would highly recommend is by Dr. Paul L. Maier. It is complete with color pictures, charts and maps.